Social Media ROI and Obliquity

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image via FlickR courtesy of LucyFrench123

image via FlickR courtesy of LucyFrench123

“The problem with brands in social media is that they act like 19 year old dudes”.
Yelled Gary Veynerchuck at SXSW, excited as ever.

His point was that there is a tendency to approach every interaction with a single goal - sex for the dudes, sales for companies. And to rush towards that goal without pausing for breath.

I have been reminded of Gary’s comment a few times this week. Mostly by the economist, John Kay.

John has a new book out: Obliquity – why our goals are best pursued indirectly. And as a result he’s cropping up everywhere at the moment.

The premise of his book is that the greatest, most profitable companies achieve success as a result of focussing on higher ideals than cash generation. This is not an especially groundbreaking theory - I’ve rarely met a successful entrepreneur who was primarily money-motivated. However I do think he has coined a super phrase and one with a distinct social media relevance.

Obliquity - why social media goals are best pursued indirectly
Success in social media rarely comes from being the 19yr old dude. Sustained social media ROI relies on building realtionships, not converting one-night-stands. The tools of social media provide a new form of communication. As a result they can help you improve products, processes and customer relationships. An indirect, or oblique benefit, might be more sales.

However, obliquity is a tough message when you’re a nervous marketing manger who only likes to spend money on safe bets where ROI has been proven upfront or in advance.

The tragedy of social media is that “digital can be measured”. This drives a desire is to spend £1 and get £1 and 10 pence back before investing more. Whilst such an approach is fine for Google Adwords or other search marketing, social media plays by different rules.

Please don’t act like the 19yr old dude. Customers can spot it a mile off. You’re far more likely to achieve social media ROI if you focus on a different (oblique) business goal first. Use social media to engage customers. Use social media for deeper customer insight or to improve your customer service. The cash will follow.

Social Media Beginners: Lesson 3 - User generated content

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When people talk about new media, social media or Web 2.0, there is often one thing in common: user generated content (UGC). This is really what the essence growth of Web 2.0 is. Web sites are crammed full of videos, photos, reviews and articles written by users. This reflects a shift not only in the amount of time people are spending online (more), but also a change in the reason for going online. People no longer go just to read and find a piece of information; they go to contribute information, share ideas and interact with other users. Wikipedia has over seven million articles in 200 languages - all user generated content. YouTube has over 150,000 new videos uploaded every day. People want to contribute to the debate and we need to give them the opportunity to do this.

The internet has changed from being about individual users interacting with websites, to individual users interacting with each other through websites.

This change is massive and the opportunities it opens up for you are equally large. For brands it’s about getting rid of traditional marketing approaches and engaging customers in what you are doing - involve them and use the content and ideas they generate to help you.

One simple but effective way to start use UGC in your business is to get customers to rate products on your site and write reviews. Many firms are worried about this, but they really shouldn’t be. Businesses like Amazon have been using customer reviews on their main site for years, others like Expedia have a customer reviews site that sits separate to the ecommerce site (TripAdvisor in their case).

To get the use of UGC in this way right, there are a few simple rules to follow:

  1. Be clear why people are reviewing - they should be doing it so that they can let other people know what they think about the product rather than it just being feedback to you on your brand.
  2. Allow people just to give a rating and use a five point scale. People tend to be very positive, in fact the average score given to products when rated online is 4.3 out of five!
  3. Allow people to post reviews in real-time. You can moderate them afterwards and letting them see that their post is live will be the reward they need for taking the time to write something.
  4. Don’t fake reviews. Not only is this going to become illegal, there is also no need. I’ve heard of companies that fake positive reviews, and ones that fake negative reviews. There’s no need to do either, so don’t.

Pretty soon your reviews will become an integral part of your site. It stops being somewhere customers go to perform a transaction and starts being somewhere they go to interact. They spend more time on the site and research suggests will spend more money with you. Products with reviews generate a much higher conversion rate than those without. Now there’s a real benefit of UGC!

Next time we’ll build on this and look at a range of ways you can start to engage customers online.

Social Media Beginners: Lesson 1 - The conspiracy

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I spoke about sharing some of our thoughts on how to go online as a set of lessons. We’re going to be feeding one or two lessons a week for the next couple of months as part of this, this first is below. We start by looking at how you should be communicating online - what’s good and what’s bad.

The Kaiser Edition has posted some interesting thoughts on the social media epidemic that seems to be infiltrating every aspect of marketing at the moment.

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The approach mirrors to some extent what we have been talking about here. If you want to ‘do’ online properly and ‘do’ social media properly then you need to be honest online. There is too often the temptation to try to control everything online as part of a consistent and traditional marketing message. This is a false construct - it tries to take old methods online and just put them online rather than taking advantage of the new things that you can do online.

Stop thinking “putting old methods of marketing online”; start thinking “new methods of marketing”

This can be scary but really it shouldn’t be. It’s easy. Social media provides a way for you to get up close and personal with people online in a way you never could before. Think how you would talk to somebody at a networking event or if you met them in a pub or cafe. That’s more like how you should be speaking online. Be open and honest and they will be the same back to you.

Don’t write as though you’re marketing. Write as though you’re speaking to somebody you know

This can take practice. The best I know is to sign up for twitter, you have 140 characters to convey a message. Just the practice of doing this is useful - even if you don’t have anybody to follow. Of course, you should feel free to follow me of course (Matt’s twitter account).

We’ll be back next time with a look at what social media tools are out there and what each is most useful for.